Chromeo – Lost On the Way Home (feat. Solange)
Given that Jonathan Wilkes managed to land a record deal and a top 40 hit purely due to the fact he was friends with Robbie Williams, Solange’s non-success remains utterly baffling. Considering the profile enjoyed by her sister (you know, Beyoncé), you’d think Solange would be able to release an album of hurdy-gurdy covers and still get some decent radio play and an invite to the Live Lounge to do a Sam Smith number. But no, her sole contribution to the UK charts remains a Freemasons remix of her single, I Decided, which stumbled to no.28 in 2008.
Normally a lack of obvious nepotism in the music industry is to be encouraged, but what makes this all the more galling is that Solange is genuinely great, and obviously talented enough to step out of the shadow of Big Sis Bey. Her 2012 EP, True, featured the brilliant Losing You, plus she’s recorded great tracks with both Kendrick Lamar and Janelle Monáe. Yet, around the world, Solange is still largely known only for her famous sibling and for that lift altercation with Jay-Z.
Chromeo’s lack of platinum discs might be a little easier to explain. Hugely popular in their native Canada, their giddy disco aesthetic can sometimes come across as a victory for style over substance. Not to mention the strong suspicion that everything they do is filtered through a prism of knowing irony. Perhaps it’s a little harsh (they’ve written some absolute bangers in their time), but they do have a tendency to give off the vibe of being a post-modern situationist project.
When their songs are good enough, none of this really matters, but their strongest track is perhaps the most sincere and downbeat of the lot: 2014’s Lost On The Way Home. Of course, this is all relative, and we’re hardly in James Bay territory here; it’s a shimmering mid-tempo examination of a crumbling relationship – a discoballad, if you will.
Like classics such as Young Hearts Run Free, the strong melody and fairly upbeat backing means that the inherent sadness of the lyrics isn’t the first thing that hits you. However, Solange and Chromeo’s Dave 1 trade verses that suggest their partnership may have run its course, yet neither one of them is prepared to commit to the finality a break-up would induce. It’s Elton and Kiki’s Don’t Go Breaking My Heart several years after the honeymoon period has long faded from memory.
Solange still has faith in the relationship (“I know it’s gonna take time, but you know that I care”) and also draws on the couple’s history and co-dependency (“Who’s gonna have your right when your left needs leanin’?”). Dave 1 is more realistic and blunt about the situation (“I listen to you talk and it’s like you’re forgetting about all the bullshit that we’ve been through”), but also acknowledges that they can’t escape one another (“I could never leave; I’m too proud”). As the bridge kicks in with a new chord sequence towards the end, Dave 1 delivers the real kicker: “We had much of everything / Your touch was everything / Went Dutch on everything / But got lost on the way home.”
This may not exactly seem like a barrel of LOLs but if disco has taught us anything, it’s that sad lyrics don’t have to mean sad music. Due to the subject matter, Chromeo dial down the winks and wackiness, but restrained Chromeo is still more conducive to a party than most bands. The bass burbles, there are handclaps aplenty, and some brilliant syn-drum breakdowns that recall those at the end of the spoken word section of ABC’s Poison Arrow.
Listening to this track’s parent album (White Women) as a whole, Lost On The Way Home can get a little swamped amongst the sex-fixated funk jams. However, taken in isolation and given the attention it deserves, it can truly stand out. While Solange being largely ignored by the record-buying public is clearly bizarre, maybe a pair of Canadian electro-funkateers managing to craft a touching and nuanced paean to fading love is the most inexplicable thing of all.
Entered chart: Did not chart
Who could sing this today and have a hit? One day, the world will come around to the magnificence of Solange, and she can then have a hit with this track. Until then, Carly Rae Jepsen and MNEK, because why the hell not?